The move marks the first time the five games will appear on both The Walt Disney Co.-owned networks in the 21-year history of the programming stunt, with the first game beginning at noon Eastern Time and the last game tipping off at 10:30 pm., said ESPN officials. Last year ABC and ESPN both aired three of five games, with ESPN airing the early afternoon and late night contests.
Overall, ESPN and ABC averaged 4.1 million viewers for its five-game NBA Christmas Day lineup last year up against stiff competition from NFL games, the lowest audience since the league began its five-game schedule in 2008, according to Sports Business Journal.
“NBA on Christmas is one of the best holiday traditions in sports, and this is a great example of how we view programming more holistically than ever before,” ESPN VP of programming and acquisitions Matt Kenny told Multichannel News. “This is a natural extension of how we continue to optimize platforms across The Walt Disney Co. to better serve fans.”
ESPN and ABC’s Christmas schedule begins with Philadelphia 76ers-New York Knicks at noon (ET), followed by Los Angeles Lakers-Dallas Mavericks at 2:30 p.m.; Milwaukee Bucks-Boston Celtics at 5 p.m.; Memphis Grizzlies-Golden State Warriors at 8 p.m.; and Phoenix Suns-Denver Nuggets at 10:30 p.m.
“We are thrilled that ABC and ESPN will simulcast all five games on Christmas Day, which is one of the marquee days on the NBA calendar,” NBA president of content and executive producer Gregg Winik said.
This Christmas Day, the NBA games will compete with three regular-season NFL games on NBC, CBS and Fox, including a primetime matchup on NBC between Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Arizona Cardinals. The NBA is well-positioned to draw in its share of fans on the holiday, Kenny said.
“There’s never been more competition in the marketplace, whether it's Christmas or otherwise, so we’re really focused on doing the absolute best we can to serve NBA fans on Christmas Day and throughout the season,” he said. ■
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R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.